Editor’s note: STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) News is new feature on Local Tech Wire through a collaborative effort with the NC STEM Community Collaborative, MCNC, and the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Center (SMT Center). To submit story ideas, please email LTW Editor Rick Smith rsmith@wral.com or Noah Garrett noah@thinkngc.com.)

By RUSS CAMPBELL, SMT Center

RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina students who attended the Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition in March recently spoke to the regarding their trip to China.

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Introduced by Dr. Fran Nolan, who heads the (NCISC) that selects the students who get to go to Beijing, Shalini Chudasama, Victoria Jones, Victoria Melbourne, and Chelsea Sumner began to explain to state lawmakers how the trip has further fueled their passion for science.

Chudasama, a senior at the , commented on her surprise at the media coverage of the event by Chinese journalists.

“I think the only thing comparable is major athletic events,” she added. “I think it says a lot about how much science is important.”

Chudasama credited the merit scholarships she received for her ability to attend college. “There are so many students who could be doing what I’m doing, but they don’t have the opportunity,” she explained.

Victoria Melbourne, a senior at , spoke about empowering students with tools of impact and engagement as well as embracing and experiencing challenges and opportunities as they present themselves. “A high school student who has been engrossed in world academic research at the university level is proof positive that an early introduction to the science world is a rewarding and positive experience,” Melbourne concluded.

Chelsea Sumner, a junior at Knightdale High School, said if someone told her a year ago that she would have presented her own research in China, she would not have believed them.

“I’ve been able to keep up with friends in the Ukraine, New Zealand and Australia, and keep up on what research we’re going to be working on in the future,” she chimed. “If I did not spend my summer in a research lab, I would not have been able to explore a country and a continent with people from all over the world.”

Sumner said the number of people that came to the public presentations to learn about science was amazing.

“I was presenting my work to elementary school students, and they were eager to listen,” she added. “It was truly a celebration of science.”

Taking time between tests, Victoria Jones, also a senior at Wake Early College of Health and Sciences, said it was neat to talk with students from other countries about their research. “Since my research is inconclusive, many of the students offered advice,” she said. “We were all trying to help each other.”

Representative Joe Tolson (D-Edgecombe, Wilson) accompanied the students to Beijing.

“We can really be proud in North Carolina for the representation of these four young ladies for the United States,” he commended. “I thank them and Dr. Nolan for his leadership.”

“From time to time I wonder about the future of the economy, this country, and this world,” added Senator Anthony Foriest (D-Alamance, Caswell) co-chair of the committee. “But, when I see presentations like this, it lets me know that we’re in good hands.”

Each student received a certificate recognizing their accomplishments.

“We need to celebrate the achievements and academic accomplishments of the students of North Carolina. We have so much to be proud of,” concluded Representative Susan Fisher (D-Buncombe).